Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bill to Legalize Unlocking Cellphones Passes Congress; New York Times, 7/25/14

Nick Wingfield, New York Times; Bill to Legalize Unlocking Cellphones Passes Congress:
"On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it legal for consumers to open the digital locks on their cellphones so that they could more easily switch wireless carriers. The Senate has already passed the bill. Under a law intended to prevent copyright infringement, consumers now risk fines of up to $500,000 and five years in jail if they unlock their cellphones without the consent of their wireless carriers.
The restrictions against unlocking are deeply unpopular with the public...
Cellphone unlocking was actually legal until last year, when an earlier exemption to copyright laws granted by the Library of Congress, the overseer of the United States Copyright Office, expired...
President Obama, in a statement on Friday, said he looked forward to signing the bill, called the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, into law."

The Pirate Bay Goes Mobile With New Site; New York Times, 7/24/14

Nick Bilton, New York Times; The Pirate Bay Goes Mobile With New Site:
"People can complete all sorts of tasks with a smartphone now — order tickets, check the weather or call a taxi. Starting Thursday, people will also be able to easily steal copyrighted content on their mobile phones.
The Pirate Bay, one of the most popular sites on the web for illegally downloading copyrighted material, announced that it is releasing a mobile-centric version of its website, called The Mobile Bay...
Some media companies have acknowledged using pirating sites, including The Pirate Bay, to their benefit. Last year, a senior Netflix executive said the company used such sites to determine the genre of new shows that viewers might be interested in, and the type of shows Netflix should produce or license. Time Warner’s chief executive, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, also said that pirated content could be “a tremendous word-of-mouth thing.”
While authorities and some entertainment companies have tried to stop The Pirate Bay from growing, the site has doubled its traffic since 2011, according to internal numbers about site use that Pirate Bay organizers released this month."

Piracy discussion paper focuses on copyright stick not content carrot; Gen Why? via ZDNet, 7/31/14

Josh Taylor, Gen Why? via ZDNet; Piracy discussion paper focuses on copyright stick not content carrot:
"If we are to understand the government's move to crack down on online copyright infringement from its now-officially-released discussion paper, the plan is to disproportionately address the symptoms without addressing the underlying causes.
Censoring websites and forcing ISPs to police their consumers' internet use seems to be the main thrust of the questions arising from the discussion paper released by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Malcolm Turnbull yesterday...
For now, it seems like any new legislation brought in will be all about making it harder for customers and ISPs. As one executive remarked to me recently, the government is being very small government when it comes to the copyright industry, and very big government when it comes to consumers and the telecommunications industry."

SCOTUSblog Founder Joins Marvel Superhero Appeal for Jack Kirby Estate (Exclusive); Hollywood Reporter, 7/29/14

Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter; SCOTUSblog Founder Joins Marvel Superhero Appeal for Jack Kirby Estate (Exclusive) :
"In what might be yet another sign that Marvel should begin to fret that the U.S. Supreme Court could review a massive superhero rights dispute, the respected attorney Tom Goldstein is now co-representing Jack Kirby's family members. Goldstein is perhaps most famous for running the invaluable SCOTUSblog, which on July 21 highlighted Kirby v. Marvel Characters as its "Petition of the Day."
The dispute started when the family of comic book legend Kirby sent termination notices to Marvel and its licensees Sony, Fox and Universal over such superhero characters as Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and others. The bid fell short when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling that the former Marvel freelancer had contributed his materials as a "work made for hire." As such, Marvel was considered the statutory author, and Kirby (and his heirs) never had any termination rights under the 1976 Copyright Act.
The high court has been asked to review the 2nd Circuit opinion, and in recent months there's been signs that it could indeed be taken up: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Marvel to respond to a cert petition after it initially declined to do so. Then Kirby's side got amicus support from the former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the former U.S. register of copyrights and various Hollywood labor guilds."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The End of ‘Genius’; New York Times, 7/19/14

Joshua Wolf Shenk, New York Times; The End of ‘Genius’ :
"WHERE does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.
But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon...
In 1710, Britain enacted its first copyright law, establishing authors as the legal owners of their work and giving new cultural currency to the idea of authors as originators.
This is when we start to see the modern use of “genius.” In an essay published in 1711, Joseph Addison cited Shakespeare as a “remarkable instance” of “these great natural geniuses” — those lit up by an inner light and freed from dependence on previous models."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Six Suggestions for Not Screwing Up Copyright Reform (Guest Post); Billboard, 7/9/14

Craig Havighurst, Billboard; Six Suggestions for Not Screwing Up Copyright Reform (Guest Post) :
"Craig Havighurst is a music journalist and media producer in Nashville with a public policy M.A. from Duke's Sanford School. He's followed intellectual property issues since covering the music business for The Tennessean in the 2000s.
Far too late and amid far too much partisan dysfunction, Congress has revived efforts at modernizing copyright law. But if recent hearings are an indication, we’ve launched a fight over slices of a depressingly diminished pie rather than a debate about first principles and solutions that could grow the creative industries again. This critical reform effort deserves better.
So what would wise and lasting copyright reform look like? Without getting into the weeds of PRO consent decrees and royalty courts, here are six ideas anyone can understand that would ensure a fair framework for creators and consumers. They propose a system that would license intellectual property in thousands of small ways that are missed entirely today. My focus is music, because that’s what I know best, but the principles could apply to photos, video clips and other works."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Bill to Unlock Cellphones; New York Times, 7/11/14

Editorial Board, New York Times; A Bill to Unlock Cellphones:
"The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a good measure that would make it legal for Americans to “unlock” their cellphones, making it easier to switch wireless providers. The House passed a similar bill earlier this year."

The Lost and Found Legacy of Barbara Ringer; Atlantic, 7/11/14

Amanda Levendowski, Atlantic; The Lost and Found Legacy of Barbara Ringer:
"I came across a quote a few weeks ago—one that so perfectly encapsulates the outdatedness and skepticism surrounding copyright law—that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen before: “The 1976 Copyright Act is a good 1950 copyright law.”
It was attributed to someone I didn’t know: Barbara Ringer.
She was one of only a few women in her graduating class at Columbia Law School back in 1949. Just after graduation, she took a position with the Copyright Office as an examiner, where she determined the registrability of applicants’ submitted works. When she wasn’t busy working her way up through nearly every position at the Copyright Office, Ringer was drafting the Universal Copyright Convention, attending international copyright conferences, and teaching at Georgetown Law Center as the university’s first woman adjunct professor of law.
She conducted empirical research. She published her work in law journals. She even wrote the article about copyright law for the Fifteenth Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
And then I realized that I did know her. We all sort of know her: She was one of the lead architects of the 1976 Copyright Act."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’?; New York Times, 7/7/14

Peter Ross Range, New York Times; Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’? :
"GERMANY is once again passing through the wringer of its past. At issue this time are not the deeds but the words of Adolf Hitler and the planned republication of his infamous manifesto-as-autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” a book that has been officially suppressed in the country since the end of World War II...
Since then, although “Mein Kampf” has maintained a shadow presence — on the back shelves of used bookstores and libraries and, more recently, online — its copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, has refused to allow its republication, creating an aura of taboo around the book.
All that is about to change. Bavaria’s copyright expires at the end of 2015; after that, anyone can publish the book: a quality publisher, a mass-market pulp house, even a neo-Nazi group."

Monday, July 7, 2014

WIPO Copyright Committee In Disarray Again; Development Dimension Questioned; Intellectual Property Watch, 7/7/14

Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch; WIPO Copyright Committee In Disarray Again; Development Dimension Questioned:
"For the second time this year, the World Intellectual Property Organization copyright committee could not agree on the conclusions of its session or on any recommendation to be made to the September General Assembly on the protection of broadcasting organisations or the establishment of an international regime of exception and limitations for libraries and education.
The development dimension of the United Nations specialised agency was again called into question by developing countries calling for more balance in the treatment of the issues on the agenda. Developing countries are pushing for limitations and exceptions to copyright, developed countries contend that the current copyright system is adequate."

Is Europe Serious About Reforming Copyright, or Just Greasing the Squeaky Wheel?; Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), 7/3/14

Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Is Europe Serious About Reforming Copyright, or Just Greasing the Squeaky Wheel? :
"Coordinated enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights—copyright, patents and trade marks—has been an elusive goal for Europe. Back in 2005, the European Commission struggled to introduce a directive known as IPRED2 that would criminalize commercial-scale IP infringements, but abandoned the attempt in 2010 due to jurisdictional problems. IP maximalists took another run at it through ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, but that misguided treaty was roundly defeated in 2012 when the European Parliament rejected it, 478 votes to 39...
Although no response to that consultation has yet been officially released, we can get an inkling of how the Commission might view these proposals for reform from the recently leaked draft of a whitepaper that examines areas of EU copyright policy for possible review...
Similar reticence towards copyright law reform was demonstrated by the Commission this week at WIPO where its representative made a very clear statement that it was not willing to consider work leading to international instrument for limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives; doubling down on a position it adopted at the previous meeting of the same WIPO committee.
This does not paint a positive picture of the future of copyright in Europe."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

After Aereo, New York Times, 7/1/14

Vikas Bajaj, New York Times; After Aereo:
"As Emily Steel wrote in The Times on Monday, several companies are already selling devices that would allow people to capture over-the-air TV signals from antennas in their own homes, record them and stream them over the Internet so they can watch shows on their phones and other devices when they are not at home. One such device, made by Simple.TV, costs $199. For several years, another company named Slingbox has sold similar devices that allow people to watch their cable-TV service from anywhere.
It’s possible that broadcasters will challenge the use of such devices, as they did Aereo’s service. But before they do that, they may want to revisit a 1984 Supreme Court decision in a famous case involving the sale and use of VCRS that came to be known as the Betamax ruling."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Big Data Comes To College; NPR, 7/4/14

Anya Kamenetz, NPR; Big Data Comes To College:
""So academics are scrambling to come up with rules and procedures for gathering and using student data—and manipulating student behavior...
Yet another set of concerns arises because a lot of the new educational data collection is proprietary. Companies like Pearson, Blackboard and Coursera each have information on millions of learners.
"This is not a new problem for science," Stevens says, pointing to pharmaceutical and medical research. "But it is a new fact in the field of education research."
A fact that raises big questions: Who owns this data? The student, the institution, the company or some combination? Who gets to decide what is done in whose best interest?"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

'Weird Al' Yankovic: The Stories Behind The Songs; Entertainment Weekly, 7/3/14

Kyle Anderson, Entertainment Weekly; 'Weird Al' Yankovic: The Stories Behind The Songs:
"For 35 years, “Weird Al” Yankovic has been music’s most reliable satirist, sending up the biggest pop hits and the most iconic artists for the sake of belly laughs. He’s about to release a brand new album called Mandatory Fun on July 15, so to prepare for a fresh batch of tunes we caught up with Yankovic to get the stories behind hits both big and small...
“Eat It” (1984)
“It was pretty obvious back then that Michael Jackson was the biggest star in the universe. Everything revolved around him. ‘Eat It’ is not that clever a variation on ‘Beat It.’ It’s probably the most obvious pun. If YouTube had existed in 1984, there would have been a million ‘Eat It’ parodies. I just gravitated toward the most obvious parody, and it seemed to work. This really was a bona fide hit. That was number one in Australia, number 12 in the States.
If it hadn’t been for Michael Jackson, I don’t know that I would have a career to this day, because getting permission from him in 1984 opened a whole lot of doors for me. Prior to that, we were getting a lot of resistance and reluctance from people who were like, ‘I don’t know about this Weird Al guy and if I should let him do a parody.’ But after we were able to tell them, ‘Well, Michael Jackson didn’t seem to have a problem with it,’ they were like, ‘Well, sure! If it’s OK with Michael, it certainly should be OK with me.’ That logic seems to work."

Lindsay Lohan Sues 'Grand Theft Auto V' Maker [Updated]; Forbes, 7/2/14

Erik Kain, Forbes; Lindsay Lohan Sues 'Grand Theft Auto V' Maker [Updated] :
"Last December we reported that actress and controversy magnet Lindsay Lohan had called her lawyers about the inclusion of a character with her likeness in the blockbuster video game Grand Theft Auto V...
The suit claims that the character Lacey Jonas is an “unequivocal” reference to Lohan, depicting everything from her likeness to her clothing line to the Chateau Marmont hotel where Lohan once lived...
According to the Digital Media Law Project: “As a general matter, you will not be held liable for using someone’s name or likeness in a creative, entertaining, or artistic work that is transformative, meaning that you add some substantial creative element over and above the mere depiction of the person. In other words, the First Amendment ordinarily protects you if you use someone’s name or likeness to create something new that is recognizably your own, rather than something that just evokes and exploits the person’s identity.”
I’m not a legal expert, but Rockstar seems to fall well within this guideline. The character in question was not specifically Lohan, and engages in entirely fictional activities that are designed to parody a certain type of celebrity. I sincerely doubt that this case has legs."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Kaskade's Free Music: Beer, or Speech? A Look at Sampling, Creative Commons and Copyright (Op-Ed); Billboard, 7/1/14

Steve Martocci, Billboard; Kaskade's Free Music: Beer, or Speech? A Look at Sampling, Creative Commons and Copyright (Op-Ed) :
"While Kaskade's "Ain't Gotta Lie" stems are free, Kaskade still owns the stems under the Copyright Law and can choose to enforce his rights at any time, potentially rendering all of the stem users liable for infringement.
"Free as in free speech" implies liberty and freedom from restrictions. With free software, you're encouraged to contribute to the source code, to modify, improve and redistribute it. These actions are usually prohibited by copyright law, but the rights-holder is able to remove these restrictions by accompanying the software with a license (like GNU, MIT or Apache). Open source software is possible because of licenses like this.
Similar to software developers, music creators continually borrow, mix, and enhance each other's sounds. Evolution in music comes from continual experimentation and inspiration from the past and present.
Producer Mark Ronson recently said in a TED Talk, "The dam has burst. We live in the post-sampling era. We take the things that we love and we build on them."
Ronson is right. We live in a thriving remix culture where the creation of derivative work is inevitable. Consumers obtain and re-distribute copyrighted material illegitimately all the time. It's become ubiquitous. Activist Lawrence Lessig, pioneer of Creative Commons and author of "Remix," asserts "outdated copyright laws have turned our children into criminals."...
Kaskade closes his manifesto with an aspirational declaration: "Free the music, and your cash will follow." Artists that want to advance an open source future for music need to reconsider their definition of free. Releasing stems free of charge isn't enough. To protect creators, the stems need to be freed from restrictions by choosing a Creative Commons license.
So can we use these stems? Are they free as in beer or free as in free speech?"

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Lost Emails of the I.R.S. Point to a Wider Problem; New York Times, 6/30/14

Derek Willis, New York Times; The Lost Emails of the I.R.S. Point to a Wider Problem:
"Even requiring agencies to store emails as electronic records rather than on paper might not solve the federal government’s problems with record management. Carl Malamud, the founder and president of the nonprofit Public.Resource.Org, which places state and federal government information in the public domain, described a deeper problem: Despite spending billions on information technology, the federal government has not kept pace with advances in technology. It has developed a defensive posture when the public and Congress demand information.
“In my view, one reason people dump so much on the Civil Service is that the Civil Service is forced to work with the most God-awful tools known to modern organizations,” Mr. Malamud said. “We spent $80 billion a year on I.T., and I’ve heard that 75 percent of that is a total waste, the end result being that we paralyze the bureaucracy and they in turn develop a real attitude.”
Mr. Malamud’s own experience with the I.R.S. includes performing audits on publicly available information to ensure that taxpayer data such as Social Security numbers do not get released by the agency. (He found tens of thousands of examples in one I.R.S.-managed database last year). The problem, he said, “is a people problem, not a money problem.”
A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, agreed. “Technology alone cannot solve the problem without commitment from agencies,” it concluded. Insufficient training and senior officials who did not follow established procedures were among the concerns that the G.A.O. cited, calling email management “especially problematic.”"